It is written:
So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren… Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren…. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth….Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” (Acts 15:3, 22, 27, 36)
One of the great lessons we learn from the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts deals with the subject of church cooperation.
Brethren from Jerusalem sent spiritual aid (in the form of teachers missionaries who brought the Word of God) to other congregations. Brethren from other churches worked together in the proclamation and spreading of the Word of God. Indeed, we read about this kind of cooperation between different congregations all throughout the New Testament Scriptures.
2 Corinthians 11:8 (ERV)- I accepted pay from other churches. I took their money so that I could serve you.
Philippians 4:15-16-Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.
The congregations also worked together in helping with physical needs.
Acts 11:27-30-And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. 29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. 30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
Sadly, this fundamental truth of cooperation has sometimes been ignored and disregarded by some Christians who contend that it is a sin for churches to work together in such things as spreading the Gospel and helping those in need.
“Thus, the question of congregational autonomy was raised. It was argued that the Bible does not provide an example of one congregation overseeing a work that is the product of many congregations’ support. It was called a “sponsoring church” arrangement. On the other hand, brethren in favor of the idea pointed out that many congregations in the Bible once gave to the Jerusalem church in order to help victims of a great famine that had afflicted the area (cf. Acts 21: 17). The Jerusalem church thus oversaw a work for which many congregations had donated….During this period, a number of other issues also began to be discussed among brethren. A few of these discussions became heated and led to the division of many congregations. Such issues include: ➢ “Sunday School” and individual Bible classes ➢ Individual communion cups ➢ Eating meals in the church building ➢ Full-time “located” ministers ➢ Women’s head coverings ➢ Helping only Christians from the church treasury ➢ Weddings and funerals in the church building.” (Andrew Erwin, Select Studies in Restoration History: 1700 – Present Day, 2662-2691 (Kindle Edition); Charleston, AR; Cobb Publishing)
It is unfortunate that divisions over these “issues” have often plagued churches of Christ in our day and age, when many could easily be relegated to the matter of personal judgment, conscience, and congregational autonomy.
It is also regrettable that so many of the divisions here enjoined dealt with church buildings instead of the actual church (i.e., the people of Christ).
May the Lord give us wisdom while we move forward as the body of Christ.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.